IS THIS THE KOSHER KATE MOSS?

THE BROADER PICTURE

THE CANTOR stands at the lectern in a fashionable Jerusalem synagogue. He is clean-shaven, stately, and, when he sings, sounds as if he's auditioning for lead tenor in Fiddler on the Roof. He wears a long black robe, a black- and-white-striped prayer shawl and a silk biretta that could have belonged to a Renaissance bishop.

With the nasal trills of his trade, he launches into a cheery Sabbath hymn. Three congregation worthies in prayer shawls and skullcaps proudly echo each verse. They've hired a star and he's doing the business.

Suddenly the cantor coughs and splutters. He can't go on. The worthies throw up their hands in despair. Then the cantor whips out a tube of mints, pops one in his mouth and picks up where he left off. The worthies beam with relief. And, in the background, a camera rolls ...

These men are making a commercial for peppermints; tomorrow they will make another for a brand of soft drinks. But they're not actors - the cantor is a cantor, the three worthies are pious Jews, and they are recruits to the first ultra-Orthodox, strictly kosher modelling agency.

Founded by Amos Ben-Naeh, a yeshiva seminarist turned adman, the Original Idea agency provides "Ortho-models" for the burgeoning religious advertising market in Israel - as well as secular consumers at home and abroad. "There is a great, international potential," he says, "not just among the Orthodox public. It's a great gimmick for the gentiles. It'll shock them."

Until recently, most ads in the religious media stuck to the printed word. "I've made a revolution," Ben-Naeh claims. "When I suggested using people, no one agreed. For two years I trekked around yeshivas, persuading rabbis to put in writing how good it would be if religious men were seen on television, on posters, in newspapers."

The breakthrough came when he persuaded a Jerusalem-based rabbi to advertise cellular phones on the front page of a religious newspaper. When he complained that he'd only earnt $200, Ben-Naeh told him he'd have to appear in the lay press too if he wanted to hit the big time. The rabbi is reviewing his options.

Although he's performed at synagogues in Canada and Germany, the peppermint cantor, Nathan Herstik, says he can't keep his wife and three children on singing alone. Until he was discovered by Ben-Naeh, he paid the rent by supervising kitchens in kosher restaurants.

Now Herstik hopes to earn as much as $2,000 a session from the agency. "I make modest commercials," he insists. "A little funny, a little nice, but no swimsuits."

One of the three worthies, Joshua Jacobovits, used to teach in a yeshiva. His rate for a day's shoot is $1,000. His greatest hit was a supermarket ad in which his trim ginger beard was smeared in chocolate pudding. The local rabbi endorsed his new profession, on condition that he didn't advertise non-kosher food or pose with a woman.

So far, Ben-Naeh has not photographed religious women, though he has a list of candidates. Softly, softly, he's been canvassing sacred sentiment. This month Dov Lior, an eminent rabbinical jurist, gave his seal of approval: women may appear in stills and TV ads, even in fashion shows.

But Naomi Campbell needn't lose any sleep. The religious competition will parade in ankle-length skirts, high necks and show no elbows. And each shot, Ben-Naeh promises, will be vetted by a rabbi's wife.

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Arts and Entertainment
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly flanking 'Strictly' winners Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

    The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
    Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

    Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

    France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
    Sports Quiz of the Year

    Sports Quiz of the Year

    So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

    From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

    Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect